On November 17, 2021

WCSD’s anti-racism policy is moving slowly

By Curt Peterson

The Windsor Central Unified Union School District policy committee experienced a “Robert Frost moment” Monday night, as deliberators found themselves at a divergence of “two roads,” trying to decide which one to follow.

Committee member Kelly Welsh (Barnard) wondered if other issues, such as gender identification, social equity, economic status and religion, which are included in the policy, should be. She thought it might be confusing to the public.

“I wouldn’t go to the anti-racism policy to find information on those issues,” she said.

The committee felt they were faced with two choices — to continue the policy’s all-inclusiveness and rename it, or to create two policies, one specifically covering anti-racism, and another regarding the other equity issues.

Director of Instructional Support Services Gina Rocque was presenting the draft version of the anti-racism policy, a project in the works since November 2020, for committee review. She said her task force would revisit the policy and decide how to handle the “two roads” choice, then bring it back to the policy committee for review before taking it to the full board.

In November 2020 the board engaged Areille King and Jameson Davis, co-founders of Writing Wrongs, to manage the anti-racism policy development project. King and Davis, both students at Vermont Law School, describe their experiences growing up as people of color as informing their work.

They could have joined the Black Lives Matter protests of the time, but, as King told the Mountain Times, “We decided we would create something that would help actualize and effectuate the goals of the protests instead.”

“Accessing Writing Wrongs brings individuals of color with diverse experiences to the development of this policy so we are not bringing biases to the conversation,” district superintendent Sherry Sousa wrote in a 2020 email.

According to Sousa, “Davis and King incorporated the all-inclusive language in their draft anti-racism policy.  [Other] consultants who are informing our [diversity, equity and inclusion] work do not see this as an issue, but a conversation with the board regarding that concern is important.”

“The anti-racism policies we create are catalysts for anti-racism work, and accountability tools to ensure the work gets done — they are not a solution to racism in school districts per se,” King said.

Davis said “restorative justice” is an important issue.

“Is discipline administered equitably among all students? What infractions can earn one student a slap on the wrist, and another student serious consequences?” Davis said.

Writing Wrongs is funded by the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship program in Boston.

King and Davis gather the necessary information, and include significant stakeholders, including parents, students, faculty, administrators and alumni in the process. Rocque said her task force conducted student focus groups, for example.

“Swooping in like a helicopter, and telling schools what their problems are and what to do, doesn’t work,” King told the Mountain Times.

Davis and King projected it would take 2 1/2 months from first meeting with administrators to final policy, but it’s been a year since the district contracted with Writing Wrongs.

“The draft policy was not delivered to us until late May as Arielle and Jameson were in their last year of law school and were attending to their studies,” Sousa says. “I asked if I could gather feedback from [the stakeholders] prior to submitting it to the Policy Committee.  I incorporated their feedback into the draft policy [that] was submitted to the Committee last night.”

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